The Dragon's Fate - Roxie Ray



My stomach heaved before I even opened my eyes. The dream stuck to me, propelling me out of bed and toward the bathroom. I managed to keep the contents of my stomach intact, but I had to stand in front of the bathroom mirror for a while and focus on being calm.

Damn it. I wiped my face down with a cool washcloth and reminded myself that nobody could hurt me or my daughter here. Dad would kill anyone who stepped through the doors that he hadn’t invited.

These nightmares were exhausting me, night after night. They were always the same. My ex-husband chasing me through an endless hallway with no help in sight. He was furious and screaming and I knew I was about to get my ass beat, but I couldn’t run faster than him and none of the doors in the hallway opened. Sometimes, the dream would progress to a second part where I hid, and he found me every damn time. Tonight, I’d woken up before it got to that. That was always worse, him finding me.

It would take me hours to fall back asleep, then I’d be crabby in the morning. I hated feeling grumpy around my daughter. She deserved sunshine as often as I could give it to her.

When my heart calmed down to its normal pattern, I climbed back in the bed and tried to think of anything but my ex-husband. Of course, that didn’t work. I’d thought about him every day for years. Even though I’d escaped him, there was no escaping him in my mind, no matter how hard I tried. He was always there.

Lately, things had been going well. I’d gotten settled in a new town, teaching at a new school. I’d made friends, even. And then, Damon had cornered me outside of my new favorite spot for girls’ night. I wasn’t sure how he’d found me, but he’d scared the shit out of me, and I hadn’t been able to shake it even though we’d been staying with my parents since then.

But staying here forever wasn’t an option. I wanted to get back to my life. With a sigh, I covered up, then had to kick the blankets off. The nightmare had put me into a sweat and the blankets were too much. March was still pretty cold in Maine, so my parents had the heat on. Restless, I grabbed my phone to play a mindless game for a little while. Maybe it would help my eyes get sleepy and I could drop off.

I’d give it another few days here before going back to my place. If I hadn’t heard from Damon by midweek, I’d go back home with Hayden. She was almost seven, and I didn’t want her to start questioning why our lives were being uprooted again. If possible, I hoped to resolve this without it disrupting her life any more than this little bit from staying here.

I was just lucky my parents had been able to buy a house with extra rooms. I didn’t like to think that they’d expected this to happen, and my daughter and I would move back in with them, but they liked to think ahead. They’d probably anticipated it, or the possibility of it, anyway.

Whatever I decided to do, I wouldn’t let Damon interfere in our lives again. I couldn’t and I wouldn’t. No matter what it took, I wouldn’t give Hayden the childhood I’d had before Mom got remarried to my stepdad. My mind raced with possible scenarios and what I’d do about them when they happened.

As I expected, it took me hours to get to sleep. When I woke again, the alarm was on its third round of snoozing. I’d turned it off in my sleep.

Also again.

I slipped my arms into my robe as I shuffled downstairs to find Hayden at the stove, standing on a stool as she assisted her grandmother with making pancakes. In two months, Hayden would be seven, but she had her father’s height and looked closer to eight or nine.

I smiled to myself as I watched them stir the batter and carefully spoon it onto the griddle. Knowing that Hayden’s Nana and Papa’s house would always be a happy place for her gave me a great amount of joy. It made me think of my childhood. Part of my early years had been pretty rough. My biological father had treated my mother pretty badly. I didn’t have a happy space like this until my stepfather came along.

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